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Baked Eggs in Chipotle Tomato Sauce

This dish is inspired by a brunch item at Gemma in NYC: eggs baked in a tomato sauce with prosciutto, fontina, avocado and crusty Italian bread. It comes from an Italian dish, uova in purgatorio – eggs in purgatory. Here is my vegetarian and Mexicanized adaptation.

The tomato sauce is wonderful: thick and flavorful. By using canned tomatoes you can make it in the middle of winter when fresh tomatoes are scarce. I had an almost empty box of cherry tomatoes I decided to throw in, which you can sub a whole tomato or omit altogether.

For simplicity and ease of cleanup, I baked the eggs in the same medium cast iron where I cooked the sauce, although the traditional presentation is individual portions in mini cocottes or ramekins. Go the opposite direction and serve family style, using a larger cast iron and crack several eggs at the time.

A few adaptations: substitute the feta with a slab of good Panela cheese added to the bottom of the baking dish before pouring the sauce and baking. Bulk up the dish by adding sautéed greens and vegetables (hellooo mushrooms). If you eat meat, consider prosciutto or pancetta (layer it between the sauce and the eggs before baking) or sautéed sausage (gasp!). And if you’re feeling extra indulgent, top it all of with a dollop of crème fraiche or crema.

Tomato Sauce Ingredients:

1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

extra virgin olive oil

1 can 12 oz peeled whole tomatoes, slightly crushed

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced and roughly chopped (sub 1 tomato)

1-3 chipotle peppers from can + 1 teaspoon adobo sauce

kosher salt

Egg Ingredients:

4-5 eggs

1/2-3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

za’atar sprinkle (Lebanese spice mix, sub with dried or fresh oregano)

toast, as needed (my preference is Ezekiel sprouted bread)

avocado, as needed

Preheat to 400F.

Heat a glug olive oil over medium heat in a cast-iron or oven-proof skillet. Add shallot and garlic and cook until softened and just translucent, ~5 min. Add tomatoes to pan (press down with your spoon so they are crushed) and season with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low constant simmer and cook until sauce is reduced, ~15-20 minutes.

Transfer to blender and blend along with the chipotle and adobo until ingredients are well combined and sauce is smooth. If you are wary about the spice, start with just the adobo sauce and taste as you blend, adding chipotle chiles one at a time. Taste, season with more salt as needed.

Return sauce to pan (or divide among individual ramekins / cocottes), gently crack eggs over sauce and bake until egg whites are just set, ~11-15 minutes. Be careful and watch closely – eggs quickly go from perfect (when whites are just set and yolk is runny) to overdone very quickly. Remove from oven and season generously with a sprinkle Za’atar and feta cheese.

Serve alongside avocado toasts (and more bread to mop up the yummy sauce.

Serves 2 – 4. Yields about 3 cups of sauce.

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